The narrator philosophizes over the turning of the century and sums up his ideas of what happened. He begins with the idea that nostalgia overlays history, making people forget the horrors and remember only the sweet things. He describes the 19th century as a time of greed and violence and claims that the Mexican War was fought so that the United State could grab more land and train more generals. He passes over the idea of slavery as a mere question of property rights and the Civil War as a brief unpleasantness. He ends by saying that people put the old century out like the garbage, wiping the slate clean for the new century.
The narrator's view of history is an interesting mix of disgust at the bloodshed caused by greed and a jaded acceptance of the fruits of the violent seizure of land and people. He seems to recognize the injustice of the Mexican War, which he believes was provoked by the United States in order to seize more western land. Mexico did not stand a chance, and the treaty that ended the war granted great parcels of land to America, including much of the state of Texas. The reader should note that Steinbeck writes history with the same fatefulness with which he writes characters.
The section, which is a meditation on "the mind of man," opens with the idea of sudden flashes of glory that inspire people to create things and do things in new ways. Next, it touches on the idea of the increasing use of mass production to accomplish things. The narrator asserts that no creative act has ever been accomplished in a group, only individually. He feels that "the free roving mind is being pursued, roped, blunted, drugged" by the forces of mass production.
Adam Trask's glory was Cathy, for she inspired him to do great things even though he did not see her as an individual. In truth, she was a fulfillment of his own desire, as he projected himself onto her. Even though she said she did not want to go to California, he imagined that she was the one who encouraged the move. As the couple prepared to depart, the brothers said their good-byes at the station. Afterwards, Charles went straight to the inn, had some whisky, and went upstairs to a prostitute. When he could not perform sexually, he cried in her arms until she made him leave.
Adam and Cathy stopped in New York to buy clothes and then proceeded to California's Salinas Valley. Adam was immediately liked by the people of the valley. Eager to have a home for he and Cathy, he began to search for a place to buy. One day when he returned to the hotel, Adam found Cathy near death from loss of blood. When the doctor came, Adam was sent to wait outside. The doctor immediately recognized that Cathy had tried to induce an abortion. She refused to answer his questions or respond to his lecture on the sanctity of life until he threatened to expose her and told her it was against the law in California. Then she told him she was afraid she would pass on epilepsy to her child from her father's side of the family. The doctor believed her and told her it was unlikely she would pass it on and that she should call him when she had concerns. As he left the hotel, he told Adam that Cathy was pregnant.
Adam was thinking about the Bordinis place, a rich ranch of nine hundred acres. When he had questions about the water on the land, he was advised to speak to Samuel Hamilton.
Louis Lippo agreed to drive Adam out to the Hamilton place. On the way, he told Adam about Samuel with a mixture of admiration and humor. He said that the Hamiltons were a fine family except perhaps for their youngest son, Joe. He praised Samuel as a good man in spite of the fact that his land was poor. Arriving at the Hamilton place, Louis and Adam found Samuel outside. Since Louis had some iron for Samuel to forge, Adam followed him to his blacksmith shop.
Before Samuel would answer Adams' questions, he wanted to tell of his son's latest antics. The youngest son, Joe, asked two girls to a dance. When he got up too late to get the buggy, he took his mother's horsehair sofa and mounted it between two horses. Both ladies were seated on the sofa and driven to the dance. Samuel then answered Adam's questions. He told Adam about the Bordinis land -- what was under it and what its history seemed to have been. The two men then talk about their great visions for the future of the valley. Although Adam had planned to stay for dinner with the Hamiltons, he decided he should return to check on his pregnant wife.
This chapter begins with a commentary on the mind of man and its capability to be creative. Amazingly, Cathy inspires Adam to creativity. He convinces himself that Cathy really wants to go to California and puts her on the train with him to the Salinas Valley. Charles is so upset over their departure that he weeps and cannot perform with his prostitute.
Since Cathy never planned to stay married long, it is not surprising that she does not want to become a mother and attempts to abort her baby. The reader wonders if the father is Adam or Charles. The doctor, falling for her story about her worries over epilepsy, does not tell Adam what Cathy has attempted. He merely states that Cathy is pregnant.
Adam is eager to become settled in California and looks for a place to call home. In his search for land, he meets the Hamiltons, bringing together the two key families of the novel. There are similarities between Samuel and Adam. Both have great visions for the future of the valley, and both are instantly liked and respected by their peers. Samuel, however, is poor but happy, while Adam is rich, but destined for unhappiness because of Cathy.
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